Cauliflower is surprisingly versatile
Until pretty recently, there was nothing sexy about cauliflower.
Boiled or steamed, it’s bland at best. But roasting or sautéeing cauliflower is a different story. The veggie’s natural sugars caramelize and its tasty inner cauliflower suddenly blossoms. Think popcorn with an attitude.
Cauliflower is surprisingly versatile, too. Pulsed in a food processor, it ends up looking and feeling like white rice. Indeed, given that it’s high in fibre and an assortment of vitamins and minerals, cauliflower is a healthy alternative to white rice.
In the interest of coaxing out cauliflower’s best flavour, I have cooked this recipe’s allotment as if it were fried rice, sautéeing it until golden. The “rice” is then infused with the usual Asian suspects — scallions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil — and bulked up with mushrooms, bacon and peas. (Vegetarians are welcome to swap in some tofu for the Canadian bacon.)
Wonderful as it is the first time around, this dish is also the perfect foil for leftovers.
Steak, chicken, shrimp, other cooked vegetables? Whatever’s sitting in the refrigerator and awaiting its second chance, toss it in.
And if you need an excuse to go Asian, consider the Lunar New Year, which began on Jan. 28.
Otherwise, feel free to enjoy this recipe year-round.
Fried Cauliflower “Rice” with Shiitakes, Canadian Bacon and
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
1 small cauliflower (about 1¾ pounds) ¼ cup plus ½ tablespoon vegetable oil, divided 2 large eggs Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 ounces Canadian bacon, cut into medium dice 2 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms 1½ bunches scallions, sliced thin (white and green parts kept separate — you will need about ½ cup of the whites and 1/3 cup of the greens) 2 teaspoons minced garlic 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger 1 cup blanched fresh or thawed frozen peas 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce 2 tsp sesame oil ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Start to finish: 1 hour (40 active) Remove the core and chop the cauliflower roughly into 1 to 1½inch pieces. In a food processor pulse the cauliflower in 2-cup amounts until chopped into ricesize pieces (you should have about 4 cups). In a large non-stick or stickresistant skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt and some pepper and add the eggs to the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the eggs all around to make a flat pancake. Cook until almost set, 30 to 45 seconds. Turn over the egg (you can cut it in a few pieces to make it easier, using the side of a non-stick pan-safe spatula) and cook for another 10 seconds. Transfer the cooked eggs to a cutting board.
Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil, the Canadian bacon and the shiitakes to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is browned at the edges, about six minutes. Transfer the bacon mushroom mixture to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add ½ tablespoon of the remaining oil and the white part of the scallion to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, about two minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, one minute. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the bacon mixture and return the skillet to the heat.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil to the skillet, then add the cauliflower and a hefty pinch of salt, pressing it flat with the back of the spatula. Cook until it is golden brown in spots, turning it over with the spatula, about 10 to 12 minutes.
While the “rice” is cooking slice the egg into strips and add it along with the peas to the bowl with the bacon.
When the “rice” is nicely crisped, add the contents of the bacon bowl, the peas, soy sauce and sesame oil to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the mixture is heated through. Transfer the fried cauliflower “rice” to four bowls and top each portion with some of the sliced scallion greens and the pine nuts.
Per serving: 483 calories (350 from fat); 39 grams fat (4 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 121 milligrams cholesterol; 665 mg sodium; 20 g carbohydrate; 7 g fibre; 7 g sugar; 15 g protein.
Roasting or sauteéing cauliflower is a different story. The veggie’s natural sugars caramelize and its tasty inner cauliflower suddenly blossoms. Think popcorn with an attitude.